Anatomy of a Photo Story Project File
You can often learn a lot about the way software
works by studying the various files it has and uses. A Photo Story project file is an
interesting one, so different from the project files of Movie Maker.
I think the story of Photo Story project files is
still evolving. Version 1 didn't have a way to save a project. It was a one-time process to
produce a story. Version 2 introduced the project file so you could go back and re-edit the
Photo Story project files are large. In this week's
newsletter I'll show you why they are so big. We'll look inside one to see what it's made of,
and then in the mini-tutorial we'll explore some aspects of a project, and the effect of a large
project file on software or computer constraints.
Here's a sample project to dissect. It is a simple
one, using the 9 sample pictures that came with my laptop, a narration added to each, and one of
the sample music files for background.
Photo Story - Sample Project
Before getting into it more, a few notes about some
things going on...
• Last week's notice about my changing from a
free subscription based newsletter to a paid one was pretty quietly received. I'll carry this
notice for a few weeks.
Issue #26 will be the last issue for
free subscriptions. See the main page of my
www.papajohn.org website to continue beyond that.
The subscription will be for 52 issues, not
necessarily a calendar year... those subscribing between now and issue #27 will receive 26
issues beyond #26.
• Dean Rowe of Microsoft made an entry in his Blog
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 including a version 2.1 of Movie Maker with
built-in support for burning DVDs. I've asked
him for more information about it, and I'll pass it along when I get it. It
might not be immediate for most of us, but it breaks the ice toward Movie Maker burning DVDs
• Until then, distribute your movies to phones. At
the Windows® XP Experience More event on Tuesday, Microsoft, Audiovox Communications, and AT&T
Wireless introduced the smallest Microsoft® Windows Mobile™-based Smartphone in North America —
the Audiovox SMT5600. The Audiovox SMT5600 includes the Windows Mobile 2003 Second
Edition software for Smartphones and is the first Windows-Mobile-based Smartphone featuring
Windows Media® Player 10 Mobile, providing a rich new media experience that enables the seamless
transfer of media from a PC running Windows XP. AT&T Wireless is offering the Audiovox SMT5600
starting today for $199.99 (U.S.) after rebates with a two-year voice and data service contract.
Audiovox SMT5600 features the CMOS
VGA digital camera with low-light capabilities, 4x digital zoom and
camcorder functionality.... and it includes
Windows Media Player 10 Mobile software.
....on to the
topic of the week
Anatomy of a Photo Story Project File
What's in the sample project file?
I started with 9 sample pictures in the sample
project for this newsletter, all jpg files that totaled 2.22 MB. I added some narration to each
of them, added a title page using one of the same sample images (Blue hills.jpg - 28.5 KB), then
the Beethoven background music (wma file of 618 KB).
The saved WMV video from the project is 3.1 MB, but
the project file is 13.7 MB.... over 4 times the size of the combined files that I included in
the story, and the WMV video file rendered from it. Here's the list of files in Total Commander,
my file management utility.
Sample Photo Story - Files
When I was last at Microsoft, I mentioned that a
Photo Story was a package of compressed files, and asked what file type it was made of. The
answer was DAT, which my file utility can look into, but can't fully manage.
If I rename the PSC file to DAT (it actually works if I rename it to most anything other than PSC), Windows
Explorer doesn't let me go inside it, but Total Commander treats it as a folder and goes to
the next level. Here's what's in the PSC file.
Files in PhotoStorySample Project
Copies of the 9 pictures are int it, renamed simply
as numbers 1 thru 9.
The Beethoven music piece is there, now named
I had narrated each of the 9 pictures. You can see
the 9 narration files... looks like they account for most of the file size. So a 75 second video
has narration files that total 12.7 MB... narrations in WAV file types seem pretty costly in
terms of the impact on the Photo Story file size.
What's in the XML file?
Let's take a look. Here's the lead-in code in the
file, some opening script followed by a section for the the title page, then individual sections
for each of the 9 pictures.
XML File in a Photo Story Project File - Part 1
After the sections about the 9 pictures, there's a
final section about the background music file.
XML File - Part 2 - Bottom of File
The XML file seems more like a Movie Maker project
file, with info about the pictures used and the settings for each.
The Photo Story PSC project file is a complete
package. You can discard the source files if you want to, as full copies of them are in the
Can you revise the pieces in the Photo Story project
file and put them back in the package, instead of having to open and edit it with Photo Story?
Reasons to do it would include: substituting another
narration or music background file, revising the text on the title page, editing a picture, etc.
With my file management utility, Total Commander, I
can look into the project file, and copy any of the files from it. But I'm not able to delete a
file in the package or copy a replacement file back into it. I guess I need another file
management utility that can do that.... let me know if you have one that works.
Analysis of the Photo Story Project File
Let's look at the properties of the Photo Story
narration files, and then at the constraints encountered when making and using large projects.
First the narrations.
I copied the narration files from inside the project
file and checked their properties. They each had the same properties as seen here:
Project File Size - Potential
Large files can tax the software and/or computer. We
know that Photo Story is limited to having a maximum of 151 pictures (150 regular ones plus one
for the background of the title page). Let's explore how well Photo Story and my Toshiba laptop
handle a story made with larger picture files.
I'll use a 5 Megapixel picture of Echo the owl,
and some 6 Megapixel files I downloaded from the California Coast project.
Using the Same Picture Multiple Times
I added the same owl picture to a project, adding it
10 times so I could pan and zoom around the same picture in different directions.
Here's what the contents of the saved project file
Project File with 10 Copies of the Same Picture
A project file for a story with a single 4 MB JPG
image used 10 times is 40 MB in size, as Photo Story treats each instance of the picture as a
The Effect of Large Project File Sizes on
Your Computer's Memory Resources
Of course it'll depend on how much memory your
computer has. My Toshiba laptop has 512 MB of RAM, reported in the Task Manager as physical
memory of 523,616K. That was more than enough to handle all of what I gave it for this
Does the whole file need to go into memory when
opened? To check that, I added some more pictures: 20 more owls for a total of 30. That got the
project file size up to 121 MB. Then another 10 different 17 MB pictures (BMP and TIFF) and the
project file was up to 252 MB.
All was working well, so I bumped it up another big
notch by adding another 30 of the 6 MB pictures... the project was now up to 30 owls and 40
large pictures, still less than half of the 150 picture limit.
.... I was watching my Task Manager to see what
effect there was on memory resources as the video was being rendered... it went well and the 9
MB video file had all 70 pictures and played smoothly at the higher 640x480 resolution.
.... but what happened while the project file was
being saved really perked me up. I was using Total Commander to watch the file grow in size as
Photo Story added the pictures to it one at a time. Look at what I saw.
After growing to exactly 300,000,000 bytes, a
curiously even number, and stopping there a while....
Project File Reaches 300 MB
... CPU usage increased as Photo Story thought about
what to do, and then did something I didn't expect. It zeroed out the project file and started
over with an empty one.
I watched it grow to the 300MB size again in the
second pass, and the same thing happened, starting over a 3rd time. In the third pass, there
were only 3 more pictures to add. The final PSC file was only 44 MB. When I looked into it,
here's what I saw.
Project File After 3rd Pass by 300 MB
It had zeroed the file out each time it reached 300
MB and continued on. No error message, just giving me whatever was there in the final pass. :)
When I tried to open this part of the project file,
I got this error message.
I wasn't surprised at the error message, but it had
missed telling me about the really big constaint:
A Photo Story project file has a maximum size limit of 300 MB
If I hadn't been sitting here watching the story
unfold, I wouldn't have guessed.
I guess that's enough for this newsletter. Some
As we get digital cameras with more megapixels, the
300 MB project file constraint is more easily reached... My newest camera is 5 megapixel, so
that would be about 60 pictures, a lot less than the 150 picture constraint.
If you know the limit you can work with it.... use
the total size of your input pictures as a guide... add them up and make sure you're comfortably
below 300 MB. You don't want to invest a lot of time into a story and then find you can't save
the project file... worse yet, after an apparently successful save, go back another day and get
a file-corrupt message and no way to recover the original project file.
I'll be writing to Microsoft and adding some info to
my Photo Story website.
I look forward to comments and discussion about
this and other newsletters on the forums at:
Have a great week...
Movie Maker 2 -
Photo Story 2 -
Products and Services
I'm involved in many things that support users
of Movie Maker and PhotoStory, and adding more daily. Here's a list of what is available to
the public. Some are free and others are reasonably priced.
Books and Magazine:
Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with
its online companion on
Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero (with support on the
Friends of Ed forum at
Movie Maker 2 -
www.papajohn.org - two goals: to
help you solve problems, and to be the online companion to the Do Amazing Things book... and
currently thinking of another goal of movie making and editing styles.
PhotoStory 2 -
a full tutorial about using it. It's not a problem-solving site.
Online Support - Forums, Channels and Newsgroups
I'm a regular on many online forums and newsgroups,
the main ones being:
Movie Maker 2 and PhotoStory 2 forums at
Movie Maker 2 forum at SimplyDV.com
Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup at
PhotoStory items are covered at
Movie Maker 2/PhotoStory 2 newsletter. The annual
subscription fee is $20 and the link to subscribe is on the main page of my Movie Maker website
for upcoming newsletters (subject to change):
#24 - MyDVD using version 4.5, the version on my
#25 - A Special Edition about PhotoStory
#26 - Open - the last free subscription issue
#27 - Open - the first issue that will be sent only
to regular paid subscribers
Older newsletters are archived by Rob Morris at:
Transition Maker 2
(TM2) - a utility to make the ultimate in personal and custom transitions for Movie Maker 2:
TM2 is a joint effort by Patrick Leabo, the
programmer, and myself.
I routinely beta test the Pixelan
packages and think very highly of their people and products: Their SpiceFX packages of
additional transitions and effects for Movie Maker 2 are available at:
Other fee-based services:
you can't save a movie because your project has become
too complex, e-mail it to me and I'll divide it into manageable sub-projects for
you, and provide detailed instructions to render the parts and assemble them into your final
movie. $49.95 - for details, see the sidebar on the Problem Solving > Can't Save a Movie page of
Movie Maker 2/Photo Story 2 training
and support services start at $50 per hour - email me at PapaJohn@CharterMi.net and
I'll help you determine your needs, and work with you to plan and implement them.
Wedding website/video packages
start at $2,500 + travel expenses. See
www.jill-mark.papajohn.org for a sample.
About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from Microsoft.com
||John "PapaJohn" Buechler, of Kalamazoo, Mich., goes by PapaJohn
online. An avid user of Movie Maker since its first release, and
a regular supporter of the community of Movie Maker users, John
received a 2003 MVP award from Microsoft for that support. In March
2003, he started a comprehensive website about Movie Maker 2 at
He maintains the website, writes books and articles, teaches, and
provides support services - all for the community of Movie Maker
2 users. An engineer by formal education, John is a computer database
and multimedia expert by business and personal experience. He co-authored
the first book about Movie Maker 2 and is actively working on a
second one. You can find his advice in the
Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup and in the
Windows Movie Makers Forums.
newsletter is republished with permission of John "PapaJohn" Buechler.
Please note that this is an archive of newsletters and some information
may become outdated. PapaJohn, and the webmaster of this site, provides
this information "AS IS" with no warranties.
Visit - PapaJohn's Movie Maker 2 and
Photo Story 2 Newsletter Index